Knowing the Subject

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Knowing the Subject

Knowing the Subject

There are five qualities of business writing that need to be considered as you are thinking about the subject of the document:

  1. Correctness
  2. Clearness
  3. Completeness
  4. Conciseness
  5. Courteousness

These five qualities are also referred to as the Five Cs of business writing. Let's look at each one individually.


When composing a business document, make every effort possible to ensure that the document is correct in all aspects. Proper English grammar, spelling, and punctuation create a positive impression for the reader.

Correctness also refers to the facts and figures that are in the document. Carefully review the document before submitting it to ensure the details are accurate and there is no room for misinterpretation.


In order to achieve clarity in your business documents, you need to do the following:

  1. Determine the purpose of the document.
  2. Plan the document.
  3. Make sure that the document is concisely written and not wordy.
  4. Avoid the use of jargon; use plain, understandable language with enough detail that the reader understands the message.


Be sure to include all the information necessary in the document for the reader to act upon it.

For example, if you send an email or memo that states simply "The meeting will be on Tuesday at 3:00PM," the reader cannot act without creating a return document asking where the meeting is and why it being held.

The proper message should be: "The meeting about the new policies on tardiness will be held in the conference room on Tuesday at 3:00PM." With this message, all the needed information is included. Do not waste your reader's time with incomplete information.


When writing a business document, every word counts. Nobody likes to wade through paragraphs of text trying to find the information you are trying to impart. Some guidelines to achieve conciseness in a business document are:

  1. Get right to the point and stick to it.
  2. Leave out unnecessary words or words that repeat the message. Never use several words when just a few will do the job.
  3. Do not use phrases that mean nothing. "I think," "I feel," or "I believe," really tell the reader nothing he or she does not already know. Leave this kind of phrase out of your business messages.
  4. Use simple constructions:
    1. Words instead of phrases
    2. Phrases instead of clauses
  5. Use a different paragraph for each point being discussed.


A friendly and sincere tone will convey courteousness in your business communications. Your readers will respond more positively to a professionally written message that is friendly than to one that seems to be curt or overly formal. Even if you cannot provide an answer to an inquiry right away, it is appropriate and professional to respond with a brief note explaining that you have the request and are working on it. This will let your reader know you received the request and will get back to him or her later.